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Inception: The Matrix and Dreamscape combined, and more
Inception is a film I wouldn't have missed on the big screen. After seeing it yesterday, I decided that it is something I ought to watch on DVD (when it comes out in the format) over and over again to really appreciate the layers of nuances. I have a feeling it will prove to be similar to The Matrix experience -- only after seeing it multiple times will the viewer realize how many things he missed the first time.
I wasn’t a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. At least, not during the Titanic era. It wasn’t until I saw him in Catch Me If You Can did I appreciate him as an actor. When Blood Diamond came along years later, I decided that this guy knew how to pick good movie projects and I started watching out for them. Before Inception, I last saw him in Shutter Island.
In short, because I have come to consider DiCaprio movies as well-chosen, I had high expectations of Inception. Some talkies parts were not as titillating as those in The Matrix (can anything compare, for instance, to Morpheus' monologue when he first explained what the Matrix was or the tongue-in-cheek humor of The Merovingian in the restaurant scene in The Matrix Reloaded?). But then again, The Matrix is so full of religious and philosophical underpinnings, and Inception never pretended to be that deep.
Yet, Inception is just as mind-bending, you need to "free your mind" to appreciate it because nothing in it conforms to accepted beliefs of reality. And that's the main reason why I liked it -- it is daring in the way it questions accepted norms and ideas.
Without spoiling it for those who haven't seen Inception yet, the story is about inducing and entering a dream. Not exactly new -- just see the 1984 film Dreamscape -- but definitely nothing even remotely similar to the crap that was The Nightmare on Elm Street. The exercise is mostly for stealing secrets from the minds of "dreamers" but when Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb (DiCaprio), he wanted something more -- to plant an idea in the mind of the heir (Cillian Murphy) of his business competitor to dissolve the corporation he inherited from his father. A business sabotage, in plain terms. The process of planting the idea in a dream is called inception.
The visual effects are stunning -- some were accomplished with the computer while others with such simple devices. For instance, imagine walking on a city street and the end of the the street suddenly curves upward and the flat world that we know becomes a sort of letter C where we can still walk normally and vehicles can travel without gravity issue. Computer-generated effects, naturally.
Now, imagine standing in a space with two huge mirror doors, both ajar, on either side. One mirror is pulled closed, and then the other, so that the two mirrors face each other. And you have a never-ending image of yourself standing in that limited space between the two mirrors. I went ooohh and ahhh with that scene. They're just mirrors but the visual effect was fantastic.
The score was done by the now-legendary Hans Zimmer (I've been a fan since The Lion King) and, as with just about all of Zimmer's work, the score enhanced -- no, empowered would be a more descriptive word -- every scene but did not overpower nor distract.
Yet, despite the unique story, the jaw-dropping visuals, the dreamy score and the stellar performance of a stellar cast, I don't think that Inception is a film for everyone. If your idea of a "good film" consists of stuff like House of Wax, well, you'd probably doze off. But for those who are willing, and happy, to explore film genres beyond tried-and-tested formulas, Inception is a worthy experience.